Operation Zero Portholes: FERMA repairs roads, links stranded Niger Delta communities

The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency has vowed to sustain the ’Operation Zero Portholes’ and ‘Connect to Your Destination’ campaigns launched in December 2023.

The campaigns were aimed at eradicating all potholes on the country’s federal and state highways, as well as reconnecting stranded communities cut off from other areas by virtue of the failing status of the roads.

FERMA Managing Director, Engr. Emeka Agbasi, disclosed this at the end of a three-day inspection of rehabilitated Port Harcourt-Osiokpo-Elele-Omerelu-Imo State border road, Mbiama Junction section of the East-West road, Opolo-Elebele-Emeyal road in Rivers, Bayelsa and the Ete-Abak road in Akwa Ibom states.

Agbasi, represented by the Director, Roads Maintenance and Management Services, FERMA Headquarters, Abuja, Engr. Dr. Iniobong Usoro, said with the campaigns, bad roads would soon be a thing of the past in Nigeria.

He stated, “In line with our ‘Operation Connect to Your Destination,’ which the MD flagged off in December, we are here today to see what has been done in Akwa Ibom State.

“We started off in Port Harcourt, we touched Bayelsa and now we are here in Akwa Ibom along Ete-Abak road, in line with the MD’s vision, we’ve done a concrete double box culvert to connect Ikot Abasi with Uyo, the state capital, because in the past, there were lots of complaints by road users, and motorists.

“And in line with our mandate, which is to ensure that we provide safe motorable roads for those who are commuting, we’ve been able to achieve what you can see here, my team and I and the Zonal Director, including the FERMA in Akwa Ibom State made sure that the mandate given us was carried out.”

Speaking on the rehabilitated Ete-Abak road, FERMA’s Federal Roads Maintenance Engineer, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Engr. Festus Okafor, said prior to the agency’s intervention, the failure of the road halted almost all economic activities in the communities.

Okafor said, “This section of Ete-Abak road was so bad that all commercial activities in the area stopped drastically because no road users could pass here and we usually have flooding problems in this place.

“So when FERMA moved in, we observed that there is need for provision of a double box culvert so that we can connect the road to Ikot Abasi, that’s what we have done, we also provided concrete lined drain of 200 meters length and we patched all the critical sections within CH 10 to CH 12, so between CH 10 to CH 12 is porthole free and all the failed sections within that section has been attended to by FERMA.

“In fulfillment of our President’s Renewed Hope Agenda, and our proactive Managing Director, Engr. Dr. Agbasi, you can see that we have actually connected this important community to Uyo, thanks to the management for giving us approval to intervene in the cries of the Ikot Ubo Ekpe people.”

Director, Mechanical Department, FERMA Headquarters Abuja, Engr. Ilegbusi Moses Adebayo, said the eradication of potholes on the roads would mitigate the rising cases of highway kidnapping, as hoodlums utilize bad spots to carry out their operations.

He enthused, “This is part of what FERMA always stands for, and that is zero tolerance to potholes on our roads. You know that when an attacker or a kidnapper decides to do his work, he always does it at the bad section of the road, but by fixing it now it would help to reduce banditry and kidnappings so that the security of the citizens would be enhanced.

“We are doing 70 percent direct labour and our people are competent and capable to deliver and this means that within a short while, all those potholes and failed sections on our roads would be made to disappear.

“We are assuring the government that we will continue to perform as long as the government continues to support and release funds to FERMA.”

Speaking during the inspection, the Zonal Coordinator, South-South 1 – Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states, Engr. Obiora Erinne, decried the paucity of funds, which he said is hampering the pace of work.

Erinne said, “Paucity of funds is the biggest challenge in this intervention, as you can see, we are fully mobilized and sincerely we would have wanted to make sure we cover the entire stretch of the road non-stop.

“We are making sure that there is no pothole on the road and as we progress, we are also repairing the failed sections of the road too. Basically we are tackling the road pavements where we deal with the failed sections as you can see as we are progressing.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Roads Maintenance Engineer for Rivers State, Engr. Adoga Asikhia, said the programme to mitigate potholes and bad spots on the roads was launched prior to the yuletide season to ensure everyone travels smoothly to their destinations.

Asikhia said, “The is a programme which the management, under the able leadership of Engr. Agbasi has deem it fit that during the yuletide, we should have a connectivity amongst our roads nationwide, that the roads should be passable for people to be able to go for their yuletide celebration, this is what we call operation connect to your destination under 2023 yuletide season.

“We keep encouraging people to observe the basic tradition of maintaining roads so that people can have value, the essence of every work we do is to get value, even if we are given a Naira to work, ours is to deliver to the value of the Naira.”

According to the Punch, he encouraged motorists not to litter the roads or block drainages, pointing out that such practices destroy the roads over time.

Continuing, he said, “So we are assuring motorists that under this our new management, ably led by Engr. Agbasi, that our focus is to ensure that this Port Harcourt-Owerri road is totally free of potholes and they can ride smoothly without challenges on the road, that is our mandate.”

Speaking after inspecting the rehabilitated Opolo-Elebele-Emeyal road, connecting Yenagoa, Oloibiri, Brass and Nembe, the Federal Road Maintenance Engineer, Bayelsa Field Office, Engr. Okhide Austine, said the road before FERMA’s intervention was completely destroyed by the torrential floods that affected the state in 2023.

He added, “This road was in a very deplorable situation before we intervened, during the last major flood that hit Bayelsa State, this road was severely affected, the flood created a lot of gullies, a lot of failed sections, sometimes vehicles get stuck while trying to use this road.

“Thank God for FERMA and the management staff who deem it necessary that there should be a special intervention on this road. What we did was to recover the road by way of removing unsuitable material via scarification, filling, sand-cement stabilization, stone base and finally the wearing course on top.”

He assured of the durability of the road, noting that it would stand the test of time as it was rehabilitated to specification.

He added, “Motorists and commuters should be assured that what has been done is solid, a lot of tests were carried out in the course of the programme to ensure that there is conformity to standard and specification.

“But the issue is that sometimes natural disasters can suddenly happen and no matter how solid you think your structure is, they could be affected.”

Thanking FERMA for its intervention, a motorists, Onyebuch Ogechi, begged the Federal Government and FERMA to sustain their efforts and not abandon the campaign.

He said, “I am calling on the Federal Government to come to our rescue and FERMA to continue their good work, as they are working, let them continue, let them not abandon the project, let them finish what they have started.”

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